If you’re applying for a UK visa from overseas, you may need to use the services of VFS Global as part of your application.
In this guide, we explain what VFS Global is and what its role is in the UK visa application process.
What is VFS Global?
VFS Global, also known as “Visa Facilitation Services Global”, is an outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments worldwide, tasked with managing the administrative tasks related to visa and other consular services for its client governments.
With over 3000 application centres in countries across 5 continents, VFS Global serves the interests of 70 client governments, including the UK. Aimed at enhancing and streamlining customer experience, the company facilitates the making of visa applications from overseas.
VFS Global does not play any part in the decision-making process for UK visas and has no influence or authority over granting or refusing a visa application. Adjudication remains the responsibility of the relevant department of each respective government, which in the UK is “UK Visas and Immigration” (UKVI). The role of VFS Global is to act as an official partner of UKVI in the administration of certain UK visa applications being made from overseas.
VFS Global overseas visa application process
When applying for a UK visa from overseas, you will need to complete an online application with UKVI and pay the relevant fee. As part of the application process, you may also be required to schedule and attend an in-person appointment at a VFS Global overseas visa application centre (VAC) to prove your identity and enrol your biometric information.
When enrolling your biometric information, you must provide a scan of your fingerprints and a digitised photograph of your face, as well as a digital image of your signature.
For more information on the application process when applying for a UK visa from overseas, search online for “VFS Global for Individuals”, where this will take you directly to a useful online tool on the VFS Global website. By inserting your country of residence and destination country (in this case the UK), this will signpost you to the following links:
- Applying for a visa: you will need to visit the UKVI website at GOV.UK to apply for a UK visas from overseas. There is a link on the VFS Global website to the visa application page. There is also a useful step-by-step guide to walk you through the application process, including researching the type of visa that you will need to enter the UK.
- Finding a visa centre: having entered your country of origin and the UK as your destination country, the link for finding a visa centre will automatically show you the nearest VACs based on your location, together with their opening hours. Depending on your location, you may be given the option to select which type of VAC you would like to attend. This could include, for example, a premium application centre, a temporary enrolment location or an application support centre, although there are additional costs involved in attending a premium application centre. After selecting the type of centre you wish to attend, you will be directed to the VFS Global website to book an appointment.
- Booking an appointment: once you have completed your visa application at GOV.UK and selected the VAC you would like to attend, you will need to schedule an appointment so that your biometric data can be captured. You will have up to 240 days to attend an appointment to provide your biometrics and complete the visa application process. You can change your biometric booking up to 24 hours before your scheduled appointment and you can also rearrange your appointment more than once if you need to.
- Attending a visa centre: you must attend your VAC appointment in person and cannot send someone in your place, where you will need to personally enrol your biometric information, as this is entirely unique to you. Without biometrics, your visa application cannot be processed. If you are applying on behalf of a child under 5, they must also attend the VAC to have their photo taken, although they will not need to provide their fingerprints or signature. Children under 16 need to be accompanied by a responsible adult, and will be asked to provide a photo and their fingerprints, but not their signature.
- Paying for premium services: having started the visa application process, you can return to the VFS Global website with your reference number to take advantage of any of the premium services on offer. These additional services are designed to make the UK visa application process faster, easier or more relaxed and comfortable, although paying for priority processing or any other optional service does not mean that your application is more likely to be successful. However, priority and other premium services are not available in all VAC locations, where you can use an online tool on the VFS Global website to determine the available services for your selected application centre.
- Submitting your supporting documents: there may be different options available to you here, depending on your location, including self-uploading the documents needed in support of your visa application or paying for a document scanning assistance service at your VAC appointment. There may also be the option of paying for a postal scanning service. Each UK type of visa requires different documentation, so you must carefully check your visa-type and prepare your documents in advance of making your application.
- Tracking your visa application: having enrolled your biometric information at a VAC, the processing time for UK visas can vary, depending on your visa-type. For example, a non-settlement visa can take up to 3 weeks, while a settlement visa can take up to 24 weeks, although you may have opted to pay for a faster decision. For both standard and priority processing times, you should be able to track the progress of your visa online.
When does VFS Global release available biometrics appointments?
VAC appointments are usually made available for booking by VFS Global up to 90 days from the current date. If an online message is displayed which states “No Slots Available”, you should try again in a few days time. Additionally, you can only book one appointment per person, where no duplicate appointment will be permitted by the online system.
How do you book a biometrics appointment for VFS Global?
To book an appointment with VFS Global, you will need to select the VAC that you would like to attend, although the nearest location may be in another country. As with the UK visa application itself, you must book your VAC biometrics appointment online.
Having made an appointment, you must then carefully prepare the necessary documentation that you will need to take with you to that appointment, including:
- a printout of the appointment confirmation letter confirming your appointment details
- your passport or other valid travel document, with at least one page blank on both sides.
You may also need to attend with your supporting documents if the location you have selected includes document scanning assistance as part of a paid package. In these instances, you should refer to the document checklist that you received as part of your online application at GOV.UK for the documents you must provide for your visa-type.
You should bring the originals or good quality copies of your supporting documents to your appointment. You can submit photocopies of documents for scanning, but they must be clear, legible, preferably in colour and A4 size. If your documents are not in English, you may need to have translations prepared before you apply for a UK visa. You may also need additional documentation, depending on your circumstances, including:
- a recent UKVI guideline-compliant photo, if you are exempt from giving biometrics
- evidence of your permission to be in the country from which you are applying for your visa, if you are not a national of that country
- evidence of your sponsor’s leave to remain in the UK, if you are applying as a dependant.
What happens at the VFS Global biometrics appointment?
On the day of your appointment, you should arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. At this appointment, you will need to submit a scan of your fingerprints and a digitised photograph of your face, as well as a digital image of your normal signature.
A digital finger scanner will collect images of all 10 of your fingerprints. The fingerprint scanner uses no inks, liquids or chemicals and it will not mark your skin. However, you must ensure that your fingertips are free from any form of decoration, cuts, abrasions or any other markings, as these may affect your ability to provide acceptable scans.
A digital photograph must be taken of your full face, which must be clearly visible with no hair across your eyes. You cannot wear sunglasses or tinted spectacles. You will also not be allowed to wear a head covering, unless this is worn for religious or medical reasons.
Uploading documents to VFS Global for a UK visa
Unless you have paid for a document scanning assistance service, you will need to upload your supporting documents online as part of your UKVI visa application process.
After you have applied through GOV.UK for your UK visa, you can upload your documents yourself once you have booked your biometrics appointment with VFS Global. If you do not have all your documents immediately to hand, you can log back into your UKVI account and continue to upload documents until the day before your appointment.
If you wish to upload your supporting documents yourself, you should refer to the document checklist that you received as part of your online application and follow the instructions on the document upload pages. It is free of charge to self-upload, but you are responsible for submitting the correct supporting documents for your category of visa. You must also follow the document upload instructions carefully. You can submit photocopies of documents for uploading, but they must be clear, legible, preferably in colour and A4 size.
How do you use the VFS Global application tracking service?
Having submitted your UK visa application, paid the relevant fee and enrolled your biometric information at a VAC, you will receive an email update when your decision has been returned to the centre. In the interim, you can also track your visa application status online using the link on the VFS Global website. To access this service you will need to insert your last name and the reference number on the invoice/receipt issued by the VAC.
If you cannot easily access email, or would like more detailed tracking information about your visa application, you may also be able to get SMS updates sent directly to your mobile phone. You can check whether this service is available at the VAC you are visiting.
Checking the status of your UK visa decision is an important step in the application process, where this will allow you to stay informed and can give you an idea of how much longer you may have to wait for a decision. The standard and priority processing times are only guidelines. As such, if your application is not straightforward, a decision could take longer.
Importantly, if your application has been pending for longer than the average processing time when tracking your application status, you may be able to contact UKVI to address any issues or correct any errors to help get your visa application back on track.
Equally, by checking your UK visa application status, you can plan ahead and make any necessary arrangements. For example, if you receive notification that your application has been approved, you can start making travel plans or booking your UK accommodation.
VFS Global FAQs
Can I walk in to VFS without appointment?
If you need to travel urgently to the UK, you miss your pre-booked appointment or you simply cannot book an appointment at a convenient date and time, there is a ‘Walk-in Without Appointment’ service available for select countries.
What is reference number in VFS global?
Once you have enrolled your biometric information at an overseas visa application centre, you will be given a reference number on an invoice or receipt. You can use this number to access the online tracking service for status updates.
How to apply for a visa to the UK?
To apply for a UK visa, you will need to submit an online application and pay the relevant fee. You may also need to attend an overseas visa application centre to enrol your biometric information, ie; a photograph and fingerprints.
How much is a visa to the UK?
The cost of applying for a UK visa can vary, depending on the visa-type. You may also need to pay an annual healthcare surcharge to access the UK’s NHS, plus the cost of any premium services, such as priority processing.
How can I get tourist visa for India from UK?
To obtain a tourist visa for India from the UK, you may be able to apply online for either a regular paper visa or an e-visa. However, you may need to book an appointment at a visa application centre.
Last updated: 2 August 2023